August 02, 2006

SUKEBAN DEKA (1991) animated yoyo action

SUKEBAN DEKA (OVA, 1991, Japan)
Region 1 NTSC US DVD (ADV Films)
2 x 50minute episodes

After the three live action series and the 2 movies, this was a late entry to the Sukeban Deka saga. A straight-to-video (OVA) anime that takes us back to the start of the story, retelling the tale of Saki Asamiya as she returns to Takanoha High School from the Reformatory, on a secret mission for the police. If Saki does some undercover work, the Government will pardon her and her Mother, (who's on death row)!

This time around, we're treated to an adaption of the early manga stories - something the live-action series couldn't really afford to do. The plot is noticeably more lavish - the rich, powerful (corrupt) Mizuchi family and their three evil daughters all crave more power, fame and fortune. They set their sights on Saki's old school and begin manipulating and extorting the students and the school board.

Instead of low-budget family-friendly action of the tv series, this OVA takes a more brutal approach - with rape, female nudity, drugs and a nasty mass murder (which pre-empts the opening scene of Battle Royale, when a school coach is gassed). The fight scenes also get increasingly vicious and bloody - this is definitely an animation for adults not children.

But once Sukeban Deka is transposed to anime, it becomes just another martial arts girlfight - there are dozens of anime adventures that provide similar thrills. Certainly it's above-average animation, with fast paced plotting, but it's lacking in the distinctive and creative yoyo fights - the only element that really makes this story original.

Still, this is a better intro to the Sukeban Deka universe than piling straight into the movies - it would have explained an awful lot if I'd watched this beforehand. So until, the TV series get released (if ever), either start with this, or get up to speed with this
Sukeban Deka Fansite before enjoying the movies...

The anime has the same characters and format as the live-action TV series, even the music is the same chugging electro-pop.

But their are huge differences in appearances - like hairstyles, Saki's is bright pink, her controller Jin has long blond hair! And she's lost her red socks! (Jin's lost his nasty bright yellow porsche, too). Perhaps these were the original details of the manga, but it's a big change from the series. With a strangely angular character design, Saki looks like a trained assassin, rather than a schoolkid. In the finale, she's not even in school uniform - which was another enjoyable element of the series. Again, without these elements, it look less original and more like all the rest.

Picky, picky! I actually enjoyed it, and I don't like most anime (browse the blog to find the series that I do). It was action-packed, the story moves along, with several surprises, the fights are exciting, there's even humour, pathos... what more do you want? I wanted more yoyos! Also, it didn't feel as outrageous as the series - because in anime, anything is possible.

The DVD looks good and runs feature-length. The original titles and end credits have been replaced with unsophisticated captions. Also, there's no 'making of' feature that the Japanese DVD had. The English subtitles are good, but not quite in line with the movies. for instance, the 'Dark Director' (Saki's mysterious boss) is here called the 'Dark Detective' and the 'Dark Inspector'. Make up your minds!

The DVD is widely available and can be picked up cheaply from most region 1 distributors.

Mark H

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